This is a response to Sayyid Murtaḍa’s treatise on Who is Responsible for an Imam’s Ghusl al-Mayyit by Sayyid ‘Abdullah Shubbar (1188/1774 – 1242/1827) in his Maṣābīḥ al-Anwār, vol. 2, pg. 250.
What we have transmitted from al-Ṣadūq in his al-‘Uyūn with his chain in a lengthy narration from al-Riḍā (a) who said: “No one washes an Imam, except an Imam.”
And in the narration of Abī al-Ṣalt from him (a): “There is not a Prophet who dies in the east, and his trustee dies in the west, except that Allah (azwj) gathers their souls and bodies together.”
Sayyid Murtaḍā – based on what a number of our companions have transmitted from him – was asked: Who is responsible for the washing of the previous Imam and praying upon him? Is this dependent on the subsequent Imam, or is it permissible for someone else to take care of this responsibility?
Sayyid ‘Abdullah Shubbar records the entire response of Sayyid Murtaḍa then says:
The weakness and shortcomings of this response are not hidden. Deeming such matters far-fetched for them (a), after so many other supernatural acts (karāmāt) and splendid miracles have been expressed by them, is itself far-fetched. Further, to reject reports that have only been cited by the Imāmīyyah and are from their specific set of narrations, merely due to weak standards requires great audacity and implying that the expression of miracles and supernatural events from them is far-fetched, is itself far-fetched.
And he has not responded to what he has brought (as evidence of the proponents) with his claim that “supernatural events happen with matters that are possible, not impossible”, because if he was referring to possibilities that are related to human power, then this is not established since such a matter is not a supernatural event. However, if he was referring to what Allah’s power can be related to – as it is apparent in his words – then it is established that such a matter is not impossible. This is because Allah’s power is associated with anything possible, and all matters which are generally impossible for us are possible for Allah, and moving a body from one place to another is one of those matters.
His statement: “but that he moves to a far-away land without change in time is impossible”, is a premise on which the proponents themselves agree, for they never claimed that such an event takes place without a change in time.
Thereafter, he mentions three methods by which the distant Imam could travel and misconstrued them: 1) flight, 2) non-existence and then being recreated, 3) through strong winds. You know very well that if we were to submit to the impossibility of these three methods, that proponents themselves do not abide by any of these three matters. Restricting the methods to these three is also problematic, rather Allah is capable of all things, while the intellects are unable to know all the ways of His Power.
Thereafter, he (r) seems to have realized the weakness of his own argument on the impossibility of these matters, so he refers to another argument. That argument is that if such an event did occur, we would have known about it, it would have been transmitted to us, and the Imam would have been seen giving the ghusl and praying the ṣalāt, while historians have not reported any such matter.
It will be said to him (r): We know about this event due to the transmission of trustworthy reporters, and the Imam was also indeed seen while giving the ghusl and performing the prayers. However, he was not witnessed in public by everyone due to the requirements of dissimulation, which is from the necessities of the Imāmīyyah sect. Rather, the sincere trustees saw him, after which the report of the washing of al-Kāẓim (a) and al-Riḍā (a) have been transmitted.
Musayyib b. Zuhayr witnessed al-Riḍā (a) wash al-Kāẓim (a) and do ḥunūt, and he (a) spoke to the companion as well.1 Likewise, Abā al-Ṣalt al-Harawī and Harthama b. A‘yan both saw al-Jawād (a) wash al-Riḍā (a) and pray upon him, as Ṣadūq narrates in al-‘Uyūn2 and elsewhere. However, historians have only mentioned names of those who washed and prayed upon him in public, hence arguing with the absence of witnesses and lack of mention by historians is not a justified argument.
As for considering the movement of a body from a distant place in a short time far-fetched, then this has happened many times. For example, the movement of the body of the Prophet (p) from Makkah to Bayt al-Maqdas, then from there to Makkah, in the shortest of times. Or the example of his (p) ascension with his body to the heavens until the Lote Tree of the Farthest Boundary (sidra al-muntaha), until he was at only two bow lengths near or even nearer; something the text of the Quran speaks about. Hence, there is no reason to consider this far-fetched.
In conclusion, the view of someone like him (r) in this matter is strange. Perhaps the questioner was one of the contemporary caliphs, and he responded out of dissimulation, or perhaps the questioner was from the opponents and wished to mock the Shī‘a, so he responded as a rebuttal to his slander, or that these reports are solitary, and as per his methodology they do not result in certainty nor action.